With years of experience as a co-maker and co-packer for the largest multinational consumer goods companies, Packaging Imolese S.p.A. (PI), Imola, Italy, plays an active partnership role in mixing, filling, packaging and assembly of deodorants, liquids and powder products for the home and personal care markets. Packaging Imolese also produces a line of products under its own Casachiara brand.
As part of its commitment to the home care market, PI recently installed a new packaging line to produce laundry detergents in water-soluble pouches. Available in the U.S for a number of years, this is a relatively new product line in Europe, according to Giuliano Reas, general manager at PI.
"We package these water soluble pouches of laundry detergent under own Casachiara brand and for our private-label partners," says Reas. "The big companies introduced these products in early 2011, but this machine opens the market for a broader range of companies."
Rotating drum machine
To run the water-soluble pouches, PI opted for a rotary style form/fill/seal drum machine from Cloud Packaging Solutions, called the Hydroforma, that is specifically designed to run the polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) film used for the water-soluble pouches. PI uses a 3-mil PVA M8630 film supplied by Monosol. PI ordered the Hydroforma machine in June 2011, and installed the machine in its plant in Bolgna, Italy in December.
Cloud's signature machine design incorporates a large rotating drum that contains cavities into which products are dispensed. To meet the burgeoning market for water-soluble pouches of laundry and dishwasher detergents, Cloud refined this drum-based machine to run these products.
Mike Werner, Cloud's vp of sales and marketing, says, "Cloud has been building these machines for 40 years, so we have a lot of credibility. Our drum machine produces 30 percent less scrap than a flat machine and our leakage rate is miniscule."
The Hydroforma machine at PI runs 600 25- to 40-gm liquid pouches/min. The 3-ft diameter drum contains 400 cavities around its circumference arranged in 40 rows with 10 cavities in each row.
The bottom and top rolls of film are mounted on opposite ends of the machine and are pulled into the machine over dancer rolls. Both rolls are equipped with automatic splice systems. An extra roll of film is mounted at each end, and the operator prepares the extra roll for splicing while the machine is running.
When the main roll is running out, a dancer arm rises to create a festoon of film that provides a supply to keep running while the splice is made. The splicer seals and cuts the empty roll when the machine indicates it is ready for a splice.
Werner says, "The autosplice allows us to change rolls of film with minimal downtime. We stop filling for three lanes to allow the splice to go through and that's it."
The bottom film goes over a heated roller that softens it so it is formable and stretchable. The tension of the film can be adjusted. This is generally an adjustment that is done at the Cloud factory and not in the field.
As the drum rotates, it wraps around the bottom layer of film around it and vacuum pulls the film into the cavities. Werner says, "The film forms into the cavities by a combination of both thermoforming and stretching the film; not by being pulled in from the edges."
The cavities are sized for the largest volume packet that will be produced. Their depth can be reduced by either inserting a metal disc under them that will occupy space so a smaller packet is produced or by using a easy depth cavity adjustment feature provided by Cloud.
Ten fill nozzles are mounted in a row above the top of the drum and dispense the product as the rows of cavities travel past the top of the machine on the continuously rotating drum. The product is delivered by high-precision rotary valve pumps from Hibar Systems Ltd. that are mounted on a cart that can be located anywhere around the machine and are connected to the 10 fill nozzles by hoses.
To expedite cleaning between product runs, Cloud designed a system incorporating a trough beneath the row of fill nozzles so they can be cleaned without requiring removal. This is a significant improvement over earlier machines in which the nozzles had to be removed and then reinstalled.
The top film travels over a revolving wick roll that applies a coating of water to the inner layer of the film. This water layer assists the unique water-soluble film in adhering to the bottom layer as the sealing rollers press the two layers of film together during the sealing process.
Just prior to leaving the drum, stationary knives slit the film into 12 continuous lanes of pouches. The film is then cut into individual pouches using a rotary horizontal knife that consists of four heated metal bars. Following this final cut, the machine continually holds the pouches in place until they are gently released to the discharge belt below.
The pouches discharge over an end pulley and drop into lanes on the discharge belt and are transported to downstream equipment. The pouches are still sufficiently controlled at this point that counting the rows of pouches as they travel over the end pulley provides an accurate count of the number of pouches going into a container. If a packet is misformed or is missing, the machine will stop thanks to a bank of formed cavity detection scanners provided with the machine.
The machine at PI is equipped with integrated controls and a touch screen menu-driven HMI from Siemens that enables the operator to adjust operations such as the filling rate and speed of drum on the screen. The drum and rotary cut-off knife are driven by servo motors with Sinamics & Simotion controls from Siemens.
The Cloud Hydroforma uses the Festo MS Series for the air preparation system on the machine as well as the Festo VTSA solenoid valves and various cylinders.
The pouches of laundry detergent are packed in flip-top plastic tubs supplied by Ruplast s.r.l. Pouches are counted by a Model TI-4004 linear counter from Cremer Speciaalmachines B.V. and are then loaded into the tubs by a Model RT-S filler from Euroetik, which also closes the lid. The machine can place as many as 30 pouches in a tub.
The filled tubs are check weighed by an Idecon s.r.l. model WP-1500 unit, after which the tubs are labeled by a Euroetik Model 4005 labeler that applies pressure-sensitive labels to both the sides of the tub and a small pressure-sensitive tab over the latch on the top for tamper evidence. Both of the side labels are applied simultaneously from horizontal rolls mounted on both sides of the conveyor. The tubs then pass under an applicator that applies the te tape that is supplied from a roll mounted vertically above the conveyor.
Reas says, "The line has worked out very well. The pouches help us maintain our competiveness in the European market. Less water is transported, so transportation costs are reduced and the pouches are very eco friendly."
Cloud Packaging Solutions, 847-390-9410. www.cloudps.com
Cremer Speciaalmachines B.V., +31 0252 41 90 38. www.cremer.com
Euroetik s.r.l., +39 0296 58672. www.euroetik.it
Festo Corp., 800-993-3786. www.festo.com-us
Hybar Systems Ltd., 905-731-2400. www.hibar.com
Idecon s.r.l., +39 0546 50083. www.idecon.it
Monosol, 219-762-3165. www.monosol.com
Ruplast s.r.l., +39 0374 350630. www.ruplast.it
Siemens, 800-743-6367. www.usa.siemens.com